Seriously, Penn State students who are rioting because the board of trustees fired a man who helped cover up serial child molestation? You all should be ashamed. And if the comments on your school’s facebook page are any indication of the level of intellectual discourse (and basic spelling and grammar skills) you’ve got going on over there, I would suggest you spend more time hitting the books and less time bleating about how Joe Paterno is a victim, too.
I know you all like football. I know a lot of people like football. I know it’s fun and culturally important and for some reason people identify incredibly strongly with Their Team, many to unhealthy levels. But it’s football. It is just football. Feeling personally devastated because someone you trusted made a really terrible decision is one thing; being personally devastated because your identity is so wrapped up in your team that the idea of any member of that team being punished for covering up child rape strikes you as fundamentally unfair is another thing. It is something that should make you seriously reconsider your identity and your values. Being really good at coaching football doesn’t absolve you from looking the other way when you hear about child rape; it doesn’t absolve you from encouraging others not to report child rape to the police.
And perhaps Penn State as an institution should consider why their football coach was the highest-paid employee at the entire university (and, I believe, in the entire state). Perhaps they should consider the kind of culture they foster when pride in their school is wrapped up in a sport which ultimately does very little for society as a whole, but which generates the university large amounts of money at the expense of student athletes who are unpaid and who play a sport that poses significant physical risks. It’s not just one guy raping little boys. It’s a culture that values a game over basic bodily integrity and physical health; it’s a culture that values that game over education, even at an institution of higher learning. Of course, in the context of that culture, a child rapist is going to get a pass if he’s integral to the game. Of course people are going to cover for him, or look the other way, or make small changes so that they can feel better but don’t actually go to law enforcement, which might threaten the game.
There have been a lot of comparisons to the Catholic church pedophilia scandal, and I think those are apt. We’re talking about individuals within relatively powerful institutions; we’re talking about individuals who were very valuable to those institutions, and were handed enormous amounts of power in a culture that revered them. And we’re talking about institutions that placed the end-game ahead of any individuals who made up their support base; we’re talking about institutions that have traditionally been ok with chewing up and spitting out followers and doing very real harm to the bodies of their followers, if that harm can be justified by the fact that it brings them money or power or both. Of course individuals who had virtually unlimited power and whose totally trusting following saw them as god-like abused that power; of course the institutions that put them in those positions of power decided to cover up the various abuses. Of course the victims of abuse weren’t the ones that mattered. Why would they?
The game is all that matters.